Protests after Tibetan killed in China police raid

 Published: 1/13/2012 10:14:00 AM GMT
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A Tibetan man in China suspected of stealing tents from the construction site of a remote airport was shot dead in a police raid, sparking a violent protest, state media and a rights group said.

The incident is the latest to hit Tibetan-inhabited areas of China, where tensions are high following a spate of self-immolations triggered by perceived religious repression.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, the suspect was accidentally shot after being apprehended in the early hours of January 9 over the alleged robbery in Xiahe county in the northwestern province of Gansu.

The report Thursday said he grabbed a police officer's gun, which went off and injured him. He later died from his injuries, and an officer was also injured during the incident, it added.

But Kate Saunders, spokeswoman for the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), said the man -- a Tibetan in his mid-30s called Gurgo Tsering -- was killed when police fired a gun through the window of his friend's house.

Citing exiled Tibetan sources, she said police detained another man suspected of participating in the robbery, and that there was no evidence either had been involved.

Xinhua said the shooting sparked a protest in the township of Amuquhu, where the incident occurred.

Citing local sources, Radio Free Asia said Tibetans ransacked the town's police station. Security forces were called in and they used tear gas to contain the protests, with many injured and detained.

Police in Xiahe county were not immediately available for comment, and authorities in Xiahe and Amuquhu refused to discuss the issue when contacted by AFP.

According to ICT, the new civilian airport currently being built in Amuquhu has sparked huge tensions in the area, as it is near a mountain regarded as sacred by Tibetans.

The incident adds to growing tensions in Tibetan-inhabited areas in China, where at least 15 people have set fire to themselves in less than a year.

The exiled Dalai Lama has condemned self-immolations, which many Buddhists believe is contrary to their faith, but said recently Tibetans faced "cultural genocide" under hardline Chinese rule that he blamed for the protests.

China, though, insists Tibetans enjoy freedom of religion and says it has raised the standard of living for many Tibetans.

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